Tag Archives: Swamystery

Swamusings @ 50 ~ Different Folks… Very Different Strokes..!

3 May

Swamusings @ 50 ~ Different Folks… Very Different Strokes..!

There were two sets of people with whom conversation happened today. That too in the morning itself, which is practically impossible in Swamyverse. It’s as rare as Pournami (பௌர்ணமி – full moon) and Amavasya (அமாவாசை – new* / no moon) happening on the same day, which actually happened only once as far as we know, resulting in the amazing, revered verses known as Abhirami Andhaadhi (அபிராமி அந்தாதி). The first stanza of the first verse ‘உதிக்கின்ற செங்கதிர் உச்சித் திலகம்’ is a near-perfect தமிழ் version of SindhooraaruNa vigrahaam (சிந்தூராருண விக்ரஹாம்) – the beginning of Lalitha SahasraNhaamam. Ah, the genre hopping mind…

Anyway, the first call was made to Swamy and the second one was made by Swamy (no choice there – yep, Swamy does make phone calls, once in a red moon). Both conversations were with elderly people, who diligently stick to the ancient practice of celebrating / wishing others only during the janma nakshathram day (ஜென்ம நக்ஷத்திர தினம்), and strictly avoid that on the birth date, which has never been part of this ancient culture anyway (anniversary celebration is a western import, unsurprisingly tied to all kinds of commercial extortion).

In both conversations, the male elders offered the customary aaseervadham (ஆசீர்வாதம் – blessings / wishes by elders) and promptly handed over the phone to the female elders (and most probably went on / away to finish today’s newspaper/s). It’s the conversation with the two female elders that did the naamakaranam (நாமகரணம் – giving a name to someone) for this post, i.e. ‘Different Folks… Very Different Strokes..!’

The first conversation (call-in on WhatsApp, in line with the social times we survive these days) was about Swamy’s childhood (the ‘primary school’ period, to be precise), which didn’t happen in his parental home but at his maternal grandparents’ home. The reason cited still is ‘good education,’ which is debatable to this date. In reality, there was a separation of a first-born child from the parents, for a few years, when siblings were getting added to the brood. It was most probably done without any ulterior motive, unless of course such a separation was advised by a family josier, in which case the elders of the day will ensure strict adherence to such ‘expert’ advise, without question. And that child grew up to be a loner, despite being part of a fairly large family, which moulded him into an inward-dwelling quiet persona (other than the moments of angry outburst, of course), who prefers solitude at all times, for the rest of this lifetime. Since any debate about the past is utterly pointless, let’s leave that aside, conserving time, effort and energy. 

Coming back to that first conversation, it was filled with reminiscences of events from a long gone past, which apparently was still vivid in the caller’s mind. Swamy couldn’t even remember one of the incidents recalled, which is quite surprising since that event has happened during his youth, much of which he could recall well – especially that particular time period, which was truly life-altering. Before you begin to wonder, no, it had nothing to do with spirituality, other than Swamy trying to be a non-believer for a brief period of time, resulting from a very active youngster’s utter frustration of being confined to a bed, for several months (due to a sports accident, that required 2 surgeries to fix and recover from the physical injury). Overall, that conversation was an enthusiastic recall of the past, ending with one more round of blessings for a long, healthy life.

The second conversation was predominantly about the event of Swamy’s birth itself, which should’ve been like any other child birth. It was and wasn’t. Instead of a BAUHumbug routine event, that child birth apparently transformed into a memorable event due to a few reasons, some of which may sound a bit imaginative, but were true nevertheless.

  • First, he was the first ‘male’ child to be born in a new government hospital (the hospital itself was fairly new and until then all child births there were producing only girls, apparently).
  • Second, he was born on the day of Dhikvijayam (royal procession on all directions – forgive the transliteration, since there aren’t any exact equivalent in english for many such sanskrit words) of the reigning Goddess/Empress of the town Devi Meenakshi (this is one of the key events of the famous annual festival known as Chithirai Thiruvizha – சித்திரை திருவிழா).
  • And third, the Apollo-13 spacecraft landed safely back on earth on that day on the other side of the world, despite major technical difficulties, which ended up giving this first-born male child of a tamil family an english nickname ‘Apolloer,’ in small town Madurai. Considering there was no social media or TV then – it was 50 years ago, after all – and the only news sources were the radio and newspapers, visualising that amusing/amazing situation is left to your vivid imagination.

The conversation which went on for some time turned out to be more about the mother than the child.. heh.. heh.. Despite Swamy’s poking, not much was recalled about that (supposedly) wonder kid, but quite a bit was spoken about the mother of that child and her childbearing experiences.

Thus started the actual anniversary dhinam of a child who was born in the popular temple town of Madurai on this exact day (per the janma nakshathram, of course), five decades ago. Today happens to be not only the janma nakshathram day, but also the Dhikvijayam of Madurai MeenAkshi Amman. Despite the amazing similarities of the two days, 50 years apart, there is also a significant difference, which is quite sad, considering it involves not just Swamy or his extended family, but the populace of the entire town and nearby towns and villages as well.

The famous annual (summer) festival of Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple is being celebrated this year in a very subdued manner within the temple itself, due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Both Chennai, where Swamy resides and Madurai, where he was born and brought up, are unfortunately marked as ‘Red Zone’s. Typically, there’ll be several thousands of ardent devotees thronging the vast – and ancient, needless to say – temple, during each day of the nearly 2-week long festival, despite the blazing summer sun. On the special days such as Thirukkalyaanam (திருக்கல்யாணம்), DhikVijayam (திக்விஜயம்), KaLLazhagar EdhirsEvai (கள்ளழகர் எதிர்சேவை), the crowd of devotees will easily swell to lakhs. Till date, Meenakshi Amman isn’t just a deity inside  the temple for the emotionally-charged Madurai folks. She is considered very much their own Amma, i.e. mother.

Swamyji50_C1

Of course, as far as Swamy is considered, today is just another day – golden anniversary or otherwise. He’s thankful for waking up as usual, still breathing fine. The nondescript daily events list is getting ticked of one by one, as any other day in the recent past. His sahadharmini (சஹதர்மிணி) was kind enough to prepare sweet pongal (சர்க்கரை பொங்கல்) to mark the occasion, which is the only noteworthy change from the routine post-retirement living. Usually, some kind of sweet prasaadham (பிரசாதம் – offering to the divine) is prepared only for festivals celebrated in SwamyHome. Today is anyway the Jagathjanani (ஜகத்ஜனனி – universal Mother) RaajaMaathangi’s DhikVijayam festival day. So, in a household with Devi’s presence (in the form of Devi Linga Bhairavi Yantra), it’s appropriate to offer sweet prasaadham on this day.

Those two conversations of the day went on to highlight the saying ‘Different Folks, Different Strokes.‘ Very different strokes, i.e. perspectives, indeed. Neither is good or bad, obviously. They are who they are and what they remember and recall is what they have experienced and thereby know. What each elder expressed was certainly true, as it is based on their own direct experience. But it’s the perspective offered that makes them vastly different from each other.

One looked at it from the perspective of bringing up an interesting child, that wasn’t her own. She was only an indirect stakeholder in shaping up that child’s life trajectory, despite actually bringing up that child for a certain period of time – a very crucial time in that child’s existence. So the recall of her experiences reflected that child’s skills, attributes, characteristics. In a way, it was a retelling of that child’s growing up days, as it was.

The other elder’s experience was of her own, rather than the child. This could be simply due to her own very first childbearing experience (she ended up doing it quite a few times, afterwards), which must have been overwhelming for a young woman from a traditional upbringing with limited external exposure of the world. For the child, who himself is nearly as experienced as those elders now, as a retiree at 50 (the planned retirement itself happened 5 years ago), the perspectives were quite a revelation – despite not being able to recall an event or two, of his own life, covered in those conversations!

Oh, before concluding this one, it’s worth recalling (pun, absolutely intended 😉 another post by Swamy on the occasion of the calendar birthday/date, couple of weeks ago. That post, ‘ஐம்பதிலும் ஞானம் வரும்!‘ is much more elaborate and will offer quite a few insights for readers who contemplate whatever they read. Here’s a link…

ஐம்பதிலும் ஞானம் வரும் ~ ஸ்வாமியின் உயிர்மெய் பதிவு  

As a species endowed with relatively higher intelligence (not necessarily better though) in this vast creation, our perspective of things, events and people is a result of our ability to shape and utilise that intelligence. There’s no doubt the environment in which we were born and brought up – including the people around and close to us at the time of growing up – plays a significant role in shaping our personality and perspectives.

But one’s perspective can eventually change – wider, broader, deeper – based on one’s exposure to the external world, commonly known as society. Such change in perspective is an outcome of both personal and professional experiences. But the caveat for such a change is one’s in/ability to assimilate, contemplate and comprehend life happening all around, objectively, without colouring them with subjective bias of any kind. In essence, how much a being changes or doesn’t is entirely in the hands of that being.

At 50, Swamy’s perspective of Life (the way humans know and live it) has changed quite significantly. Realising mere survival is just a BAUHumbug routine, he has consciously bid adieu to the corporate world, where he performed his survival act in a reasonably successful way for nearly two-and-a-half decades, five years ago and started treading a different path, to realise the Truth (about Creator, creation, existence, et al) and attain Mukti (the ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle spiral).

This ongoing journey has significantly altered Swamy’s perception of Life (the way it is, i.e. Reality) as well, though there is still a long way to go, inward of course. So for the seeker that Swamy is nowadays, pretty much full-time, this day too shall come to pass, just like any other day in the past, including the day in the long gone past when he came (back!) into the world of survival, one more time, as the jyEshta kumaaran (ஜேஷ்ட குமாரன் – first-born male child) of a god+government fearing humble middle-class family, in the temple town of Madurai, on the auspicious day of DhikVijayam of Meenakshi Amman (மதுரை மீனாட்சி அம்மன் திக்விஜயம்).

The just-born ‘apolloer’ has certainly travelled a looooooooooong way – literally and experientially – from that day and place. And life goes on, without being bothered about whether he has turned 5 or 14 or 23 or 50, on this particular day!

2016-02-07-19-45-40Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Learning #1 – On Gautama the Buddha and his Path!

30 Mar

Lockdown Learning #1 – On Gautama the Buddha and his Path!

~a SwamyView insight

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Lockdown Learning is a new series of articles, through which #SwamyView on all things about ‘Life, the way it is’ is shared as insights, based on Questions raised by fellow humans, either seeking to comprehend something or simply expand their knowing.
This is the first article of the series.

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Questioner: Why was Buddha not convinced with any of the existing religions at that time? He did not choose to find enlightenment through Hinduism or even Jainism. He went ahead and created his own path… What could have made him feel that other religions don’t offer? I tend to agree that he did not start his own cult for fame or personal benefits.

First of all, let’s sweep aside all the misconceptions about Gautama the Buddha (he isn’t the only Buddha btw, every Realised Master that has ever been is a Buddha). We’ll refer to the great Master as GB from now on, to conserve some screen space.

Gautama_the_Buddha1sGB didn’t start a new organised religion. And no, it wasn’t a cult either. In fact, none of the Realised Masters to whom an organised religion’s founding is attributed to, ever actually intended to seed / start a new religion. That mostly happened after their time.

Vardhamana Mahavira (also a prince and grihastha with a child, his father’s name is ‘Siddhartha’ – not known to be related to GB though) didn’t found Jainism – he is just one of the Thirthankaras (not too different from Guru or messiah or prophet) in that religion, albeit one who is revered as God incarnation by the jains.

Jesus Christ didn’t found Christianity. And why would a ‘son of God’ propagate his own path, instead of his father’s, anyway? Jesus was in fact a jew, which means his religion (by birth and practice) was Judaism. And he was persecuted and executed by the Romans, who had their own belief system, with many a God. Incidentally, many jews don’t consider Jesus – referred to as Yeshu – as a messiah, let alone son of God, in Judaism. The organised religion attributed to him was founded by his disciples / followers, who believed his teaching, and the path based on those teachings, could offer salvation to the people.

Mahavira1Whereas, later day Gurus like Arutprakasa Ramalinga Vallalar, Ayya Vaikundar and Meivazhichalai Andavar actually ended up founding their own organised belief system akin to existing religions – Samarasa Sanmarga Sangam, Ayya Vazhi and Meivazhichalai, respectively. But even their systems have their roots firmly entrenched in Sanatana Dharma, which has been the ‘way of life‘ for several millennia, in this ancient culture. Vallalar’s magnum opus Thiruvarutpa actually has many verses in praise of Lord Shiva. He is known to have worshipped and sung the Lord’s praise in Kandhakottam, a popular Murugan temple in Chennai. Post his realisation, Vallalar simplified God as ‘jyoti’ (light), perhaps with the objective of eliminating the confusion caused by the vivid imagination of various God forms by devotees.  

TeachingofBuddhaGB chose the path of sanyasa, i.e. seeking the Truth through renunciation – of all materialistic attachments and worldly connections. It’s very much a path in the ancient culture of Sanatana Dharma, even now. Having been around two-and-a-half millennia ago, he must’ve certainly tried the methods and Sadhana (spiritual practices) of that time, which must’ve included severe penance, aka தவம். But at some point in time, during his journey along the spiritual path, he realised – to his utter dismay, most likely – that none of the known processes were offering the answer to what he was looking for (we’ll get to that in a few moments).

Shri Bhagavat Ayya, a contemporary living Master (in Tamilnadu), says that contrary to popular belief, Gautama the Buddha didn’t attain enlightenment by meditating under the Bodhi tree, but actually self-realisation happened to him when he sat under the tree in an almost despondent state, after realising that none of the sadhana he tried yielded the result he desired. This is not that different from the enlightenment experience shared by many other Gurus. Self-realisation, aka enlightenment, happens by its own volition, to/within a sadhaka. All sadhana is just preparing the sadhaka for that happening. 

GB did indeed show a different path to his followers, based on his experience of Reality. In fact, that’s exactly what any other Realised Master (Guru) too has done. Every single one of them offered a path that’s a variant of the original, where the tailoring or refinement is based on his/her own experience of realisation.

Sadhguru1For example, the core sadhana offered by Swamy’s Master Sadhguru is the Shambhavi Maha Mudra. It’s said to have originated from Adiyogi Shiva himself. Yet, Sadhguru’s version is tailored to eliminate the step(s) that will rekindle the sadhaka’s memories of past lifetimes, because most humans of this era simply aren’t ready to or capable of handling the stark facts about their past births. Sadhguru also emphasises the importance of knowing / realising the Truth (about Creator, creation, existence, et al, or ‘Life, the way it is’ as he terms it) through intimate direct experience and not based on how the scriptures or preachers describe it, since that’s the way he himself attained self-realisation, in this lifetime.

Incidentally, GB’s teachings such as ahimsa, renunciation, non-attachment, etc. are all very much part of Sanatana Dharma as well, one way or another. For example, the ‘yama and niyama‘ of Ashtanga Yoga (they are the first two stages of the eight-stage yogic path to realisation) elucidated by Patanjali Maharishi’s Yoga Sutras are nothing but a list of dos and don’ts, in terms of virtues essential for a seeker. Similarities such as these can be found in Mahavira’s jainism teachings as well.

GB didn’t include any kind of Gods in his teaching, possibly due to two reasons. And that’s purely speculation, of course. First, he didn’t find any God helping him attain enlightenment. That probably sounds pretty trivial, but it’s also a fact that none of the trinity, nor Devi, actually appeared to offer him self-realisation or salvation. But that isn’t surprising at all, since the manifest forms, i.e. Saghuna Brahmam of creator is typically left to the seeker’s choice. There are paths to realisation, using any form of God as the Paramatma, i.e. the supreme soul, with which the jeevatma (the individual being) aspires to attain union. So, a Devi upasaka chooses the path of Devi Shakti (the path of Tantra); a Subrahmanya upasaka chooses the path of the six-faced Lord Shanmukha (the choice of Siddhars such as Boghar and Pamban Kumaragurudasa Swamigal); a Vishnu upasaka chooses the path of the preserver among the Trinity (such as the path of Bakthi, chosen by the Azhvars); and the sadhaka who considers Adiyogi Shiva as the supreme soul chooses Shaiva Sidhanta or Yoga abhyasa (not for nothing is Lord Shiva known as both Adiyogi and Adi Guru – he predates all Realised Masters in this ancient culture). Alternatively, one can choose the formless ‘unmanifest’ form, i.e. the Nirghuna Brahmam as well, if one has got the guts and iron will to choose the abstract path to realisation. Sidhartha Gautama probably chose the formless or abstract form for his meditation is my guess.

Jiddu-KrishnamurtiSecond, he realised that despite believing in various forms of Gods and performing rituals to all of them diligently, people were still suffering. So he must have decided – most likely after his enlightenment – that it’s quite possible for anyone to be liberated from suffering (not just in this lifetime, but also permanently from the birth-death cycle), without actually having to believe in a(ny) form of God. If so, that would be a truly revolutionary approach to mukti, even during his time, preached by someone who himself is considered as one of the avatars of Lord Mahavishnu. That’s like God himself telling devotees that they don’t have to believe in him, yet they can attain the ultimate state possible for human beings! In fact, a contemporary world teacher such as J Krishnamurti too has eliminated the need for a(ny) God (or Guru, for that matter), in the pursuit of realisation of the Truth. JK neither identifies himself with any religion nor likes being called a Guru, despite the fact that he most certainly is revered by millions as a Realised Master, who isn’t that different from Gautama the Buddha himself!

Also, it may be surprising to know that there are quite a few Gods, or devatas in Buddhism, especially in the Tantric variants. Tara, for example is an important Goddess in Tantric Buddhist versions such as Tibetan Buddhism. Tantra in Sanatana Dharma has always been closely associated with Shakti, i.e. the Mother Goddess, who is considered the foundation or source of creation, according to Devi Bhagavatam and Devi Mahatmiyam. It’s quite understandable as Mother remains the sole source of creation, even in this digital era (even in a family of same-sex couple of two males, none of them can actually conceive, despite one of them being called ‘wife’). Moreover, depiction of Bodhisattva Avalokiteswara, the patron God or deity of Tibetan Buddhism with a thousand arms, quite possibly indicating the Sahasrara Chakra, (the opening, or blossoming rather – since it’s also referred to as the lotus with a 1000 petals – of which is an indication of self-realisation), also includes Sakhyamuni Buddha himself prominently. Oh btw, Buddhism hasn’t excluded karma either, and the reincarnation of beings due to that, unlike a few monotheistic religions. That idea has its roots in Sanatana Dharma goes without saying.

Buddhist_Gods

GB is once said to have gone into a deep state of meditation – most likely Samadhi – and narrated who he is, by recalling all his past lifetimes, right from the single cell organism from which possibly all life forms in creation originated. This is in perfect alignment with the teachings of Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta, which elucidate on the source of creation as a primordial energy, i.e. Nirghuna Brahmam, one without form or attributes, or the unmanifest stillness (aka Shiva – ‘that which is not’), which eventually manifested itself into all of creation, i.e. the manifest universe and the beings inhabiting its worlds. In his realised state, GB simply perceived himself as that source of creation itself, from the very beginning of creation, and all its manifestations, till himself. This is exactly what the mahavakyas from Upanishads, viz., ‘Aham Brahmasmi‘, ‘Ayam Atman Brahman‘, ‘Ta Twam Asi‘ and ‘Pragnanam Brahma‘ state. In essence, he was expounding none other than the fundamental idea of Advaita, i.e. non-duality, which itself doesn’t require any reference to a particular form of God or deity.

Dhuni_Quote_1

So, there’s enough evidence to say convincingly that Gautama the Buddha’s findings and teachings weren’t so groundbreaking that they superceded every other religion or path that existed before. On the contrary, it’s quite easy to establish Buddhism as just another branch of the tree of Spirituality, that had been in existence long before GB came around. And that’s perhaps the primary reason why the religion whose founding is attributed to him, did not spread far and wide within Bharatavarsha itself, simply because most bharatvasis of that time must’ve been perplexed as to ‘what’s so new!‘ While he is certainly revered as a great Guru (Realised Master) in this culture, and even portrayed as one of Mahavishnu’s dasavatars (which directly links him to Sanatana Dharma), the fact remains that he is just one of the many Realised Masters who have treaded this land and guided thousands during and after their lifetime, to attain self-realisation and mukti (the ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle spiral). He just happens to be one of the popular Gurus.

Now to that part of the question regarding why he offered a different path to his followers. The primary reason for that is the fundamental problem for which he set out to find an answer. “Why is there so much suffering in this world?“, upon witnessing suffering in the forms of old age, illness, death, etc., for the first time in his life. Safely assuming that he belonged to some variant of Sanatana Dharma, before his quest to find that answer, he must’ve been familiar with the various religious practices (vedic chanting, homams or havan, elaborate rituals for various deities, learning & contemplation using scriptures, etc.). Though legend has it that his father carefully shielded him from knowing about ‘normal’ life (of human beings) and any form of scriptural learning (since it was predicted by scholars that he will become a renunciate and great teacher, at the time of his birth itself), GB was a prince after all and must’ve been part of, or at the least witnessed, many such rituals sponsored by his father. Even the epics Ramayana & Mahabharata must’ve existed in some form during his time, so he must’ve certainly been aware that even incarnations of Gods go through suffering in human form.

So when he eventually set out to know the Truth, his quest was probably not to ‘liberate’ humanity from the karmic cycle (which he may or may not have been aware of, at the beginning of his quest to realise the Truth), but to find a way to alleviate their suffering instead. Finally, post self-realisation, he concluded and proclaimed that “Attachment is the root cause of all suffering.” So his teaching was naturally tuned to eliminate attachment of all kinds, so that suffering too can be eliminated eventually. This is also why Buddhism is perceived as the path for renunciates, i.e. monks who have taken to sanyasa, choosing to renounce all worldly attachments, just as GB himself did. And it certainly seems to have worked, especially during his time (he did travel and preach his path for many decades post attaining enlightenment), when he had thousands of monks as disciples, including his own child Rahula. Incidentally Mahavira also did the same thing (walking out of a life of luxury and family of wife and child), though his path is inclusive of both sanyasa and grihasta ways of life.

BhagavadGita2a

Intriguingly, the removal of attachment that is considered essential to alleviate suffering in humans, isn’t new either. If one goes back a few millennia before GB’s lifetime, to the time of the great Yogi Krishna Paramatma (an avatar of Lord Mahavishnu, no less – the eighth one, preceding Gautama the Buddha), one of the most popular shlokhas of his teachings (enshrined in the eponymous Bhagavad Gita – considered the holiest of Sanatana Dharmic scriptures by many, even now) elaborates on how one must perform ‘actions’ without any attachment to either the actor or the outcome. It’s none other than the verse

Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhur Ma Te Sango Stv Akarmani.” 

Lord Krishna basically told Arjuna to get on with waging the war (of Mahabharata, at Kurukshetra), without being overtly concerned about the outcome. He also emphasised that not participating in the war was certainly not an option. Arjuna was hesitant to do so, since those who he had to face, and beat – most probably kill – were actually family. His decision making was obviously clouded by emotions and his subjective intellect was on overdrive, projecting a dreary future scenario, based on the vast repository of past information stored in the mind. In other words, he was ‘suffering’ due to the ‘intellectual thinking’ arising out of his mind, based on the past data, projecting a future scenario, preventing necessary action in the present. Krishna Paramatma’s way out for Arjuna’s ‘suffering‘ conundrum was to consciously ‘not getting attached to the doership and the outcome of the action.’ In essence, he told Arjuna to get rid of his attachment in order to alleviate his suffering. GB seems to have merely repackaged that teaching a bit, to suit the needs of people of his time.

In a letter to one of his disciples, Swami Vivekananda quotes the Bhagavad Gita verse and says,

‘Despair not; remember the Lord says in the Gita, “To work you have the right, but not to the result.‘ ‘To work‘ essentially means to perform an action. Actions can be performed effectively only if the actioner takes the responsibility to perform them. Both responsibility and performance are shaken when the actioner worries more about the outcome than the action. The cause for this is attachment. Objectivity requires detachment. And objectivity is essential for staying focused on the action, until completion. To put it differently, performing an action is akin to being in a state of meditation. Meditation, unsurprisingly, is one of the primary tenets of GB’s teaching as well.

1000349_10202443379629792_1133605306_n.jpgDuring his lifetime, GB’s followers seem to have comprised predominantly of monks (of both predominant genders), who have renounced material life and chose the path of sanyasa. This is known as the Sanga, one of the primary tenets of GB’s 3-fold teachings (the other two are Buddha and Dhamma). He is said to have had thousands of disciple monks around him, many of whom are said to have attained enlightenment as well.

Sanyasa isn’t an easy path to choose, yet it is very much present as a choice in Sanatana Dharma as well. Post the Brahmacharya stage, one can choose to be a Grihastha (life of householder) or Sanyasa (life of renunciate). Alternatively, even those who choose to be a Grihastha, can later choose Sanyasa, after completing their Grihastha duties and going through Vanaprastha. Therein also lies the clue to why GB’s path didn’t find many grihastha followers in Bharatavarsha. Interestingly, there have been many Gurus in this ancient culture who remained Grihasthas, even after their enlightenment, and continued to teach and guide seekers.

Lockdown_Migrants1Today, during the nationwide lockdown enforced to protect the masses from getting infected by the deadly virus pandemic known as COVID-19, we come across many a news article or visual crying out loud about thousands of migrant workers walking or transported back to their hometown, highlighting their misery and suffering all along. It’s quite obvious that they endure a lot of suffering during their existence – not just during pandemics or natural calamities. Yet, a significant portion of such poor population hold dearly on to their ancient belief system, passed on through many generations, i.e. Sanatana Dharma in one form or another, and not willingly shift en masse’ to a different faith such as Buddhism (for example), which was founded from the quest of a great Master who set out to find the cause of such suffering and alleviate it. It’s a fact that they do find solace in their favourite form of God and trust their faith to survive their existence filled with one form of suffering after another. One need to only witness the millions (literally!) of padayatris who walk hundreds of kilometres, year after year, to Rishikesh and Gangotri, chanting ‘Har Har Mahadev‘ fervently, to comprehend the sheer power of their belief.

Have GB’s teachings eradicated suffering from the world? Obviously not.

Were there not such teachings aimed at alleviating the suffering of people, either before or after the Buddha’s existence? Of course there were many – by many a Realised Master, not too different from GB himself (though many may not be that well known – limited to a certain region or even a particular place).

The reason why so many belief systems and paths of seeking coexist only in this nation is that all of them lead the seeker (or believer) to the realisation of the same / singular Truth (about the Creator, creation, existence, et al) and the ultimate liberation (from the suffering of repetitive birth-death survival spiral). Gautama the Buddha’s path and preaching were based on his own quest (to find a way to eradicate suffering) and ways of attainment (renunciation, meditation, etc). So are all the paths that were and still are in existence. Each Master teaches differently, yet they all guide their followers – seekers and believers alike – towards the same end state, that of realisation and liberation. That hasn’t changed for several millennia that have come and gone, and isn’t expected to change for several more to come. Teachers come and go, but their teachings continue to resonate with newer generations of seekers and followers. That’s why Gautama the Buddha is as relevant today as he was two-and-a-half millennia ago. Yet, the suffering that he tried to alleviate still pervades all sections of humanity even today, for which he (or any other Master, for that matter) can’t be held responsible.

Before we conclude this learning, two incidents in GB’s life are worth recalling, in order to truly comprehend this long-form response.

Buddha_and_Widow_taleThe first is a famous, oft-quoted, tale of a widow who requested GB to bring her only child back to life. Buddha, the ever-compassionate yet pragmatic realist, told her it can be done, adding an ‘if’ clause. He told her “If you can fetch a handful of grain (till or something similar) from at least one family in this village/town, which hadn’t seen any death whatsoever, and bring it to me, your child shall be brought back to life.” That poor grief-stricken woman went around, from door to door, seeking a handful of grain, but was left empty handed by the end of her seeking. For, there was not a single household in that place (or anywhere else, for that matter) that hasn’t seen death of a beloved member of the family. Everybody dies. And everyone connected to them grieves. That’s the harsh reality of existence. The woman realised that and became a disciple – monk, of course – of GB himself. This tale highlights one noteworthy aspect of the great teacher – his teaching was direct, bereft of any hard-to-comprehend fantastic expositions of Truth (typical of scriptures, puranas and ithihasas), and based on direct perception / experience of reality. That’s the primary reason it was so effective.

Buddha_first_sermonThe second, less known tale, has been shared by Sri M, a contemporary living Master, of the Nath yogi order (founder of ‘The Sathsang Foundation’). In his autobiography (two volumes titled ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master’ & ‘The Journey Continues’ – highly recommended, even for non-seekers), while recalling his many past lifetimes, Sri M narrates his experience of being in the presence of Gautama the Buddha. This happens during GB’s now-famous first sermon at Saranath, when the world was about to hear from the new Realised Master, for the very first time. Sri M in that lifetime belonged to a lower caste and GB passes through his place. Sri M offers him water, which GB accepts and drinks. Then he invites Sri M to be part of his sermon. Sri M, being a lower caste person, sits away from the crowd of curious people who assembled for the sermon, and listens to the Master. The crowd for the epic first sermon of the Buddha was less than twenty people or so, apparently. And Sri M says, in all his lifetimes (which includes him being part of the epic Mahabharata battle at Kurukshetra, witnessing the great Yogi Lord Krishna himself in action, as a woman then) he has never seen a being that was as compassion personified as Gautama the Buddha, the great Master who taught his path to less than two dozen people in his first sermon. Swamy had tears rolling down his eyes, involuntarily of course, while reading this passage in that book. But GB certainly fared better than Adiyogi, who as Adi Guru Dakshinamurthy, had just 7 sages to transmit his teachings, which is the firm foundation of all spiritual seeking, till date. Yet, look at how much Adiyogi is revered, worshipped and fervently followed even now. Size doesn’t matter, after all, certainly not in the spiritual realm!

So, in conclusion (at last..;), there’s no question that Gautama the Buddha is one of the greatest Gurus (Realised Masters) of this ancient culture. The fact that his teachings still prevail is proof enough for their effectiveness. But there’s no denying the fact that his teaching, and thereby the path which is based on his teachings, have their roots in Sanatana Dharma. Just as there are many tributaries to the mighty Ganga Maa, there have always been many spiritual paths / organised belief systems that branched away from Sanatana Dharma. The beauty of this culture is its acceptance of all such tributaries as well, alongside the eternal mother river. That’s why teachers such as Gautama the Buddha and Mahavira were neither persecuted nor prosecuted here, but accepted and revered as a Gurus, and had scores of disciples who chose to follow their paths and put their teachings to practice. That in essence is the greatest aspect of our culture, highlighted in the saying ‘unity in diversity!

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Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

Is Knowledge of Everything Necessary!

12 Feb

Is Knowledge of Everything Necessary!

~QuorAnswers by Swamy

For any action, there has to be a purpose. Without purpose, thoughts and actions are pointless. So, what’s the purpose of knowing everything…

Is it to prove a point to someone (which isn’t going to be of any value to one’s quality of living) or to comprehend the limitation of the human being (ability, capacity, time, energy, etc) to know only a limited number of things?

QAT_Swamy1The lifetime available to a human being is limited (by breath, not time). The cosmos is so boundless and unimaginably vast that it’s practically impossible for a person to know everything about existence. Even if one limits oneself to knowing about this tiny planet (which is actually a speck of dust on the cosmic scale), a lifetime isn’t sufficient – even in the digital age where information is practically just a “Hello Alexa” or “OK Google” away.

 

Life the way humans know and live it is primarily just survival. However much one tries to know about it, the predictable routine of a BAUHumbug existence on the survival plane isn’t going to change. Sadly, most humans are stuck in this rut, for many a lifetime.

Life, the way it is,” or Reality is far more magnificent, incredibly complex and immensely enchanting to know about. The path to know the Truth (about creator, creation, existence, et al) is known as spirituality. It is ancient, not bound to any belief system (such as Religion) and open to all. In this digital age, there’s no dearth of information about all things spiritual, though most of them are just information and not wisdom (gained through first hand experience). Treading that path to know the Truth, as an intimate internal experience (known as self-realisation or enlightenment) is pretty much the only thing worth knowing. And that’s exactly why anyone is gifted with the opportunity to be human!

May Grace be with you to know the Truth – in this lifetime itself!

Link to this QuorAnswer by Swamy in Quora.

~Swamy

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer

Two Switches!

6 Jan

Two Switches!

~a Swamystery Blog


Every being that’s alive has two switches within ~ the self-start and the self-destruct

The beings with supposedly lesser senses, i.e. all the beings other than humans,  naturally know how to access and use the self-start switch, as and when required, since they are aware of its necessity for their very existence.

They are certainly aware of the actions they need to take, on a day-to-day basis, such as fetching food, finding a reasonably safe place to rest and avoid skirmishes with beings that aren’t known to be kind to them (Homo Sapiens feature at the top of their ‘unkind list,’ unsurprisingly). Despite the dangers lurking in every corner (including but obviously not limited to being hit by a speeding vehicle driven or ridden madly by a human, who is always in a hurry, for no particular reason or worse – getting shot or maimed by them), threatening their survival, such beings seem to live a content life, quite joyfully, and then leave peacefully, when their time’s up.

Human beings who simply can’t stop boasting about their extra – ahem, sixth – sense, apparently don’t know how to use that unique faculty wisely, to access the self-start switch to live joyfully and seek liberation. Instead, they are easily seduced beyond redemption by the self-destruct switch (may be it’s in shiny red colour that’s simply irresistible, a la the one baby Groot tries to press repeatedly, simply driving Rocket mad), considering how tragically hilarious their survival has turned out to be.

Two Switches! ~a Swamystery blog

We compete for every damn thing, day in and day out, yet we forgot how fun and enjoyable competition can be. Why should all competitors be bitter rivals, always trying to cut each other’s throat, at the earliest available opportunity, is something race horse would never be able to comprehend.

We are obsessively focused on pleasing fellow humans by being nice to them, believing how others perceive us is the most important thing for our survival. But the ever-rising flame of desire to please others that continues to devour any semblance of kindness left in us, like the raging Australian bushfire, is something even the billions of animals affected by that fire won’t understand.

We imagine information as knowledge and consider ourselves to be wise, with ready access to the trove of information, thanks to big G (no, not that hard-to-find heavenly G, i.e. Godji, but the easy-to-access internet G, aka Googleji). Pretty much any other species that’s cursed to cross our paths will most certainly shake their heads, shrug and scramble away in a tearing hurry, when they discover first-hand our educated stupidity.

We keep acquiring things during the entire, albeit brief, lifetime – including different versions of things we may already have. A broken bucket or utensil certainly needs to be replaced. But why are people so crazy to keep replacing a cellphone or tv or car that’s still working fine is something that would confound even the Creator!

We have concluded that ours is the only inhabitable planet in the entire vast, still expanding, universe (despite the known fact that we don’t even have the means to check out the notional periphery of our own galaxy – which happens to be just one among possibly billions) and anointed ourselves as the smartest species in existence. Whenever we actually manage to do interstellar travel and reach another inhabitable planet in a galaxy far far away, and explain to beings like Leia, Luke or Rey that we had to come there because we practically destroyed the only tiny planet we ever inhabited, they will be well within their galactic rights to annihilate us – the aliens – then and there, in order to preserve their own existence.

Yeah, we actually turned out to be a despicable species, despite the fact that we happen to be only one of the millions of species inhabiting this single tiny planet in some nondescript corner of one galaxy. We are a threat to not only our own existence, but also to those other millions of species that are content with what they have got on this planet and don’t nurture purposeless daydreams about finding another green planet a few million nautical miles away, because they haven’t really done anything stupid to destroy their home. And they certainly don’t deserve to perish along with this planet, because of a single species’ immeasurable and incomprehensible self-destructive nature.

Here’s a question that’s worth pondering ~ “When was the last time you actually read the contents of the printed material that are stuffed within the package of any thingamajig you’ve ever bought?” The answer from six-sigma of human population that has bought something or other in their lifetime that comes packaged will be “Never!” Go on and ask yourself that question and ask everyone you know the same. The answer will invariably be the same.

All of those unread printed material require trees to be cut, to make the paper on which they are printed. Now take a moment and think how many billions of tress we would’ve cut so far, for this utterly useless stupidity. The cartons in which that product was packaged and the labels too consume trees. So are all the wooden furniture that we cherish possessing for generations and the copious amounts of wood used in all kinds of construction. And toothpicks, chopsticks, matchsticks, notebooks, nonsensical fiction, newspapers, magazines… The list of things that use murdered trees as their source is seemingly endless.

And that’s just the tip of the titanic iceberg of our wanton destruction of the precious natural resources that we obviously didn’t create, but chose to use anyway, without a break, from time immemorial. Oh yeah, we are a despicable species… we don’t need a PhD in any science to figure that out

You’re supposed to observe 2 minutes of silence, repenting for the inexcusable sin of cutting billions of trees so far, even though you may not have done so personally

There’s some hope for redemption though, even in this bleak scenario, which of course is self-created by the shenanigans of the beings with a sixth-sense. Saving the planet and restoring it to its original glorious state is clearly beyond our ability, but limiting our flagrant robbery of the natural resources this planet is endowed with is certainly within our ability.

If we can start with something as simple as not cutting any more trees, for any kind of needs, then the planet is quite capable of self-restoration. In fact, as consumers, we should force all manufacturers who create any goods for our consumption to take a pledge to offer all product information – manuals, installation guide, warranty and safety information, etc. – only digitally, from this year onwards. That would be a worthy start to preserve the green cover that’s so critical for the sustenance of life in this planet.

There are obviously other things all of us can do… Not buying new gadgets to replace those that are still functional would be on the top of the list (YouTube reviewers be damned). If your cell phone still does all the things that you ‘need’ (not ‘want’) it to do, then you actually don’t need another one with the latest and greatest processor. Same goes for your headphones, speakers, tv, motorcycle, car, shoes, watches, clothing, etc. It’s as simple as that.

Practice this restraint, i.e. not buying something new that you may want but don’t really need, at least for a few months. Then suddenly you’ll realise that you’ve a substantial amount of money in your savings bank account. And real money is always useful, isn’t it – irrespective of whether you’re someone stuck in the survival plane of existence or seeker on the spiritual path.

Now that you’re less needy, and hence not so greedy, you may also realise that you’re a little bit more gentler and kinder than before. This happens when you stop chasing things to acquire for yourself all the time and instead start observing life that’s vibrantly happening all around you. This is when you start to unknowingly expand the boundary of your kindness by doing simpler things such as feeding a stray or two, offering clean drinking water for birds, simply listening to fellow human beings without any prejudiced judgement, volunteering at some place – orphanage, old-age home, ashrams doing worthy charitable activities for human well being, schools for people with limited physical abilities, animal shelters, and so on – where kinder hearts, minds and limbs are always required, and useful. The trickle of kindness will eventually turn into a pond of compassion that you never realised was always within you, waiting for meaningful expression.

Along this journey of self-discovery, which could turn out to be life-altering for some, you may also discover the long suppressed desire to know the Truth – about the Creator, creation, existence, et al. For many humans, this desire would’ve been suppressed for many lifetimes, due to the nature of their karma (accumulated actions of the past and the present). When this desire to know becomes a seemingly unquenchable thirst, and you start to silently scream for some kind of guidance, a Guru (Realised Master) will appear to guide you, towards self-realisation, aka enlightenment or knowing the Truth as an intimate direct experience. S/he will not only show the path towards realisation but also Mukti, i.e. the ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of being born as a human being. Not showing off the umpteenth iteration of a particular model of uber-expensive cellphone, every time a new model is launched!

Since many of us lack the innate wisdom to choose the self-start switch within and end up choosing the self-destruct switch instead, inadvertently or otherwise, the Guru performs the role of the kick-start (remember those things in your first motorcycle, which was most probably a humble functional model), to restart the engine (our life energy, which is the source of our existence) and steer us along the right path (towards the destination of mukti). Receiving the guidance of a Guru (Realised Master) in any given lifetime itself is a blessing. With Grace (of Guru and the Creator, who are in essence one and the same), may the purpose of your birth as a human being be realised in this lifetime itself. Shambho! 

Be joyful & spread the cheer…
~Swamy | ‘@PrakashSwamy

P.S: I could’ve published this post on New Year’s eve, making it a worthy New Year Resolution for a few readers (only a handful read such posts regularly anyway.. heh.. heh..) and garnered a bunch of likes and even a few comments. But, with my Guru’s Grace, I’ve realised that the purpose of my writing is to simply share ideas, insights and inputs, without getting attached to the outcome of publishing. In essence, he has taught me how to transform karma (action) into Karma Yoga (purposeful action performed with total involvement, while remaining absolutely detached from the outcomes). Shri GurubyO Namaha.

Thank you Bee!

29 Dec

Thank you Bee! ~a Swamystery nano blog

Why should one thank a bee for stinging him/er!”
(“கேள்வியும் நானே, பதிலும் நானே”ன்னு ஒரு புது blog series ஆரம்பிக்கலாம் போல இருக்கே..!


The two hands in this picture belong to the same person.
One easy conclusion anyone can arrive at is that the person certainly has two hands. ✌Hmmm… Now that you’ve figured that out quickly, let’s dig up some more details…

The left hand is how both hands look, almost bereft of any fat, pretty much any day.(oh, have you ever noticed that almost 95% of hand emojis depict the right hand )!
The right one isn’t infected by any யானைக்கால் வியாதி type disease and will return to its fat-free original state, probably in a day. Oh yeah, I can clearly hear your big sigh of relief!

If at all one has any morbid thoughts about how one may look while being obese (we all do, at some point in time, so you aren’t alone ), then there’s an easier way to find that out, instead of indulging in food.
*Just get stung by a tiny bee.*
Yep, it’s actually that simple!


The tiny (in comparison to our 6 feet mighty form, to which we inadvertently end up comparing every damn being we see ) bee one insect which shoots first and then asks  questions, a la the lone Clint Eastwood type weary (& wiry) westerner’s adversary. (is that a ‘toy gun’ emoji, ‘coz, I couldn’t find a real one, which is actually a wonderful thing – not just for emojis).
Okay, it stings first & then buzzes to issue a warning.☝


The bee is a live example of the dictum *மூர்த்தி சிறிது, கீர்த்தி பெரிது*, quite literally. The sting hurts terribly far a minute or two, starting with a burning sensation. There’s no a stung person can simply ignore it and continue the ‘ignorance is bliss’ (it isn’t, btw) BAUHumbug routine, since it’s fast and furious like a missile, actively seeking more skin surface targets to bombard, ummm… sting!


But the swelling and numbness stay for hours, to remind one about the folly of one’s misadventures, in no uncertain terms – such as clearing the dead leaves and branches in the home garden (even if the said garden is just a patch of green in the balcony), without checking for the presence of – stinging – insects, and perhaps snakes (one slithery being did end up somehow in our 4th floor apartment, a few years ago, which even the expert who came to catch & release it found hard to explain – especially since it was a young one, though at nearly 2 feet it was quite a grown up young snake).


Someone did exactly that today and got the message loud and clear!
That bee was probably annoyed at its home, a honeycomb few square inches in size, being disturbed and instantly stung the disturbing object – happens to be a hand of a silly human – to express its feelings, which obviously wasn’t that jubilant, on this particular Sunday morning. Phew…

Getting stung despite knowing the presence of a bunch of them, hidden away in the foliage, was a stupid thing to do. So, no complaints there… Really.

Anyway, the silver lining in the Sunday stinging episode is, the stung person now knows how he might be, if he were obese. That’s always a good thing to know, since it’ll keep him even more aware of the need for diligence and discipline in his Sadhana (spiritual practices) and sticking to the moderate intake of healthy food. And add a few kms of walking or cycling too to the stay-healthy daily to-do list, perhaps. A healthy body and clutter-free mind are as useful to a seeker as it is to a survivor.

So, the conclusion is *Thank you bee*… I guess..!

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Swamusings ~ On A Different Note!

17 Nov

Swamusings ~ On A Different Note!

Most music aficionados stick to known types of music. Their daily commute, long drives out of town and private listening hours (if any) pretty much overflow with the same kind of music, if not the same performers too.

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Some are open to listening to different kinds of music. They explore and discover the odd gems, but still predominantly listen to the familiar ones.
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Few actually explore various genres of music and expand their sound scape, continuously…

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As a typical born-and-brought-up Madrasi (all South Indian people – from 4 vastly different states and a UT – are madrasis to the rest of India 🤣, all of which the madrasis simply refer to as North India, irrespective of whether it’s located in the east, north or west 🙄), Swamy’s terra firma in music is carnatic, naturally – both vocal & instrumental. But because of his slightly pronounced inclination towards instrumental music (thanks to legends such as Kunnakkudi, Kadri, Umayalpuram, etc.) 🎺🎻, simply due to his lack of multilingual skills (to comprehend the meaning of hymns, songs, bhajans) he also warmed up easily to western (yep, the videshi west) instrumental music as well (Kenny G, Yanni, Miles Davis, Joshua Bell, the Orchestras, Lindsey Sterling, etc.). 🎼🎹🎧
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Surprisingly, despite choosing to remain in his motherland after spending only a few years outside (unlike many of his pals who chose to settle down on the supposedly ‘developed’ side of the world 🤦‍♀️), his exposure to Hindustani music remained limited to the occasional sitar, santoor or flute album, mostly accompanied by Zakhir Hussein on the Tabla 😂. And then there’s Hariharan’s ghazals, of course (Hariharan is not only well known in the southern movie industry, but he himself happens to be a Madrasi, just like Shankar Mahadevan).

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All that changed, with his exploration – albeit a cautious one – into the hi-res audio space. While looking for hi-res / lossless audio to test his audio gadgets, Swamy ended up discovering quite a lot of musicians, from both sides of the world.

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Swamusings ~ Treading (with caution) into audiophile territory!

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Here are a few (ex)samples…
Swamy has never heard about Lorde, until listening to and getting instantly enchanted by her voice, on a song included in an audiophile music playlist, on YouTube (of all places)! She’s like Adele, yet different.
Madrasana was familiar territory but with a twist – a performer on his/her own, sans accompaniments, in a well organised setup. And this channel creator / patron is a former hotshot executive in the IT services industry, where Swamy too spent his entire career span.
And then there’s Darbar, which is the perfect gateway for someone like Swamy to explore the vast (and obviously enchanting) Hindustani music terrain. Filled with fantastic single tracks by a plethora of astoundingly talented performers (many of whom Swamy hasn’t even heard of until now), it’s a channel worth a watch, ummm… Listen (both, actually)!

Swamusings ~ Treading (with caution) into audiophile territory!

22 Oct

Swamusings ~ Treading (with caution) into audiophile territory!

One of (many, needless to say.. heh.. heh.. 😂) Swamy’s interests is music, of pretty much all kinds. Classical music (of the Bharat kind) & instrumental music (of the global kind) have always been a big draw, though an occasional new ARR movie composition or vocals such as Adele too are listened to with equal joy.🎧

SwamyDP-2019-2

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Despite all that, Swamy hasn’t ventured into audiophile territory for a long time, even when he was earning a reasonable amount of pay, primarily due to the cost (of listening equipment) and secondarily due to lack of awareness. Lately though, some (sizable, considering the limited financial inflow of an early retiree, but certainly not outrageous 👀) investment went into personal hi-res audio equipment.

Swamy’s entry-level audiophile equipment – all sourced through Amazon India, mostly during the innumerable number of sale events they keep hosting – consists of hi-res certified 1More Triple Driver earphones, the மூர்த்தி சிறிது கீர்த்தி பெரிது kind of KZ ES4 earphones, the uber popular AudioTechnica M50x headphones and a hi-res audio music player + DAC – the FiiO M3K. And of course, there’s the punching-way-above-its-size Signature Acoustics Phoenix Hi-res Bluetooth audio transmitter/receiver (yep, I’m fully aware of the jargon dropping here 🤷🏻‍♀🤪). Oh yeah, couple of Bose speakers are in the mix as well, though one of them is constantly on strike (one of those rare CD players) a la public sector bank employees and the other one suffers from the typical portable speaker limitations (how about one from Marshall sir – umm, frankly, the endless Amazon sales keep tempting me for a while)!

Audiophile1

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Equipment aside, the sad fact about hi-res audio is its availability & affordability, especially in MeraBharatMahan! 😳🤐 Tidal is a well-known streaming source but both availability & cost will be like those forbidden fruit company iThings. Also it may not have much of desi music selections. Locally available services such as Amazon Prime Music, Jio Saavn, Ghaana, et al don’t overtly specify the quality of audio, so one can never be sure.

The other choice is to be ultra patient and rip all the original audio CDs (remember those – like any true-blue music lover, Swamy too has plenty of originals!) at higher bit rates and create one’s own collection, which will obviously take a lot of time, considering the tremendous amount of manual intervention required and the not-so-fast speed of the USB connection to the external CD drive (many of the new laptops have entirely eliminated internal CD drives, a la the fast vanishing 3.5mm audio jack on modern smartphones). Let’s take a breather here… 😵

 

HiRes Equipment2

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So, Swamy was obviously delighted, when he came across a notable hi-res collection of well known (‘heard’ would be more apt) musicians such as AR Rehman, Ilayaraja & such, while looking for hi-res audio files to test the new USB DAC, the FiiO K3, connected to the Obage OE-2425 stereo speakers & of course the head/earphones, on… wait for it… YouTube! 😌🎼🎧

Here’s the channel that does something audio enthusiasts on this side of the world only dream about – a sizable hi-res collection of popular Indian music (no carnatic music yet… ah, man 🙄😖). There may be others, but this is a good place to begin the hi-res journey. Try it – preferably with a good quality head/earphone or pair of speakers & you’ll know what is being elucidated here.😌🤙

The Mastering Project – Hi-Res Indian Music

HiRes Audio Channel YouTubeC

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Oh btw, Swamy is practically an illiterate, when it comes to the nuances of music (despite much of the Dhinam Oru Padhigam hymns being musical, by flow).🙏But when has that ever stopped an enthusiast from exploration anyway! 🎧😌🤘

SwamyDP-2019-4

Swamy listening on 1More Triple Driver earphones

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

உயிர்மெய் (தமிழ் பதிவுகள்) | SwamyQuote | Swamystery | QuorAnswers by Swamy | Quoraவிடை by ஸ்வாமி | BeenThere, SeenThat  

NhAdha Brahmam ~ a tribute to Shri Kadri Gopalnath, the incomparable Saxophone Maestro

12 Oct

NhAdha Brahmam

~ a tribute to Shri Kadri Gopalnath, the incomparable Saxophone Maestro

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Over a decade ago, I’ve left Jr in a tournament hall (he’s a professional Chess player at international level) somewhere in Mangaluru and walked a few kilometres in blazing sun, with the help of the directions on the phone (it’s probably a Nokia – well before it’s android days) to reach an ancient ShivA temple, that’s located on a rocky hillside. The darshan was wonderful and I’ve returned in time for lunch with Jr (sensibly took an autorickshaw this time). The place I’ve visited is Kadri, which has been made world famous by a son of the soil, who gave the darshan of NhAdha Brahmam to even untrained musical lovers such as this writer, whenever he played a classical song on the western wind instrument known as Saxophone. Instrumental music is naturally formed a significant portion of Swamy’s music collection, in cassettes (do ya know what they are Gen X/Y/Zers) and CDs (used to spend a fortune at the annual music sale at Shankara Hall once upon a time, just like the hundreds of books purchased during the annual Chennai Book Fair, year after year), which now await digitization, quietly lying down under the bed (oh don’t worry, they’re pretty safe), though even that effort seems pointless in this digital age, when there are apps aplenty to play any kind of music anyone fancies, in the phone itself!
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The bassy nhAdham emanating out of the instrument was simply out of the world and can easily bring tears of joy flowing from the rasikA’s eyes. Just like RAjarathinam PiLLai, SrinivA, MAli, BAlachander, Kunnakkudi, UmayALpuram & Valayappatti are simply known by the name of the respective instruments they played with absolute mastery, the name Gopalnath is synonymous with Saxophone. The identity of Master (Maestro!) musicians like him is inseparable from the instrument they play. In other words, they’ve attained union with not the instrument, but the music that flows through it / them.

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Their worship of NhAdha Brahmam, i.e. the Divine in the form of sound, is the music we are blessed to listen to. If done with awareness, perhaps the rasikAs too will be blessed with the darshan of the divine, in the formless form of NhAdha Brahmam. And thanks to my maternal grandfather Shri Rengasami Iyer, I was fortunate to listen to Shri Kadri Gopalnath live once, at the NhAradha GAna SabhA, at a much younger age – accompanying him, which will remain etched in the memory (along with the vocal music performance by another legend, Shri KJ Yesudas), forever.

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Legends aren’t born as legends. But they certainly become aware of their real talent (an inherent gift, unlike skill that’s learnt, which comes into play in a given lifetime, based on one’s prArabdha karmA), work diligently to hone it and attain mastery over it, over a period of time. Whether they know it or not, playing music is their sadhana (spiritual practice) and daily offering to the divine. RasikAs – knowledgeable or otherwise – become a part of that offering, by simply being present, with nary a distraction (kinda hard in the present days with the constant notification wink of the omnipresent smartphone), during such performances. In an(y) unexpected moment, the darshan of the Creator can happen, even if it’s just a glimpse, like a momentary lifting of the veil, making that time worthwhile, eventful, purposeful and joyful. And true legends such as Shri Kadri Gopalnath are the chosen instruments of the divine, to offer the rest of us a glimpse of the boundless Grace! Shambho.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Swamusings ~ Pensioner Swamy!

6 Sep

Swamusings ~ Pensioner Swamy! 🤔👴🏻🙃

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Nearly five years (well, it’s a month shy of 4.5 years, to be precise) after his planned retirement👣, Swamy is now officially a pensioner, joining the league of his father, f-i-l & their ilk 👴🏻👵🏼, many of whom are still very much around, most certainly drawing a much better monthly pension (அரசாங்கம் வாழ்க). 🤣

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On this normal occasion (what, you were expecting some hyped up adjective like ‘momentous’ there, eh! 🙄), Swamy would like to express his sincere gratitude to his long term financial consultant Mr.E.Lakshminarayanan, for enabling the planned retirement to actually happen, and continuing to ensure Swamy stays retired, as desired. 💐🙏
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Needless to say, gratitude is also owed to Swamily 👪, who took his (earlier than) planned retirement, at a tender age of 45, in their stride, and for letting him do whatever he does 📚✍😌 (ahem, that would be ‘Read-Write-Meditate in mugglespeak), even though they aren’t quite sure as to what he does 🤷🏻‍♀, or if he does anything at all! 🤔😂🤘

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Anyway, here’s a piece of practical advise, for those of you who still nurture the dream of retirement, sometime in this lifetime…
☝If you don’t have a financial adviser/consultant yet, find one right away. Alternatively, you may simply call / text / WhatsApp Lakshminarayanan @ +918754468343 (don’t worry, he doesn’t pay any commission to me, at all).
✌️If you don’t have any of these among your existing financial products, viz. term insurance, health insurance and pension plan, start all three right away. Of course, all of them will fetch you some income tax deduction as well.
🖖 If you have not ventured into the markets yet (no sir/ma’ am, not the vegetable/fruit market that you frequent, but the equity market 🤦‍♀️), you shall forever remain unsure of your peaceful retirement. So get started right away with investment in mutual funds (the safer way for those who aren’t confident enough to directly invest in stocks), ideally through the SIP (systematic investment plan) route.
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You may have a well-paying job today and probably aren’t bothered much about your (and your family’s) future, which is the case with many professionals – including Swamy’s former colleagues. But there simply is no guarantee about a safer future, considering how outdated one can become so quickly, in terms of knowledge and skills, and how loyalty is a big sad joke, when it comes to organisations reciprocating that towards their employees. It’s imperative that you actively plan today, for a secure tomorrow, irrespective of however great yesterday was.

Just so you know, Swamy did all of the aforementioned investments (and then some), only during the later stages of his corporate career, starting from 2003/04, shortly after his decisive return from overseas. During the earlier stages of his budding career in the booming (at that time) IT services industry, he was routinely chided by his well-wisher boss (who eventually became his – only – mentor) about not investing a portion of his earnings, keeping the future in mind. Heeding to such sound advise then would have probably helped Swamy become financially safer much earlier in this lifetime, but one (hopefully) learns from experience and does necessary course corrections. As a matter of fact, a few SIPs are still continuing, long after Swamy has actually retired from his reasonably successful corporate career.

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Swamy isn’t rich by any stretch of imagination, and that was never his objective any way. But he is a content being, who isn’t unduly worried about the market fluctuations derailing his planned retirement, which is secure and stable, until this point in time. Of course, it helps that the indulgences of Swamily are very few and far between, which results in negligible discretionary expenses. But that doesn’t mean they live like misers. 4K TV, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and YouTube videos streaming via ACT Broadband, Airtel and Jio mobile subscriptions, occasional sweets & savouries from the likes of ‘The Grand Sweets & Snacks,’ automobiles with 2 and 4 wheels (with associated running & maintenance costs), a pet daughter (who is pushing 80s), donations to charity, frequent travel for Jr’s sports pursuit, feeding strays and birds, regular celebrations of festivals, seasonal online sale binges (mostly the gadget kind), unexpected (but rare, thankfully) medical expenses… all these and more are very much there at SwamyHome as well!

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A content way of living, with occasional indulgences but almost no impulsive expenses, simply helps stretch the safety net of one’s financial kitty, without having to start censoring the basic necessities for a decent urban standard of living. And that’s exactly what Swamily has been doing, from well before Swamy’s retirement. It certainly helps that all of us – the human beings in the family, that is – also happen to be meditators, following the guidance of our Guru, though only Swamy remains the serious seeker treading the spiritual path.

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Early or Planned Retirement is no black magic. It’s a possibility for anyone stuck in the survival plane of existence, provided there’s a focused financial plan, which gets implemented diligently, over a period of time, preferably with the guidance of a professional.

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If you aren’t even planning to retire at some point in time, in this lifetime, then when will you start doing what needs to be done to realise the real purpose of your life, as a human being… So, please Stop dreaming & just Start doing… Now!

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Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂
~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy
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Swamusings #1 ~ Ah, that fresh morning cuppa!

30 Jun

Swamusings ~ the new blog series by Swamy that’s a breeze to read, reminisce, reflect & relate/respond to…

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Swamusings #1 ~ Ah, that fresh morning cuppa!

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Was wondering for a while when this was going to happen… 🤔
And it finally did, today!👍

Ah, at last, an App for a very unique Indian need – that fresh morning cuppa…
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Living in MeraBharatMahan is an entirely different ball game compared to the western way of living, which most entrepreneurial ventures and their apps cater to. Implementing them as-is for akhand Bharat simply won’t work as expected, not just because of the extreme diversity, but also due to the nano cultural nuances, that date back to many a millennia, which the entrepreneurs of considerably young western societies (in terms of culture, not age of people) have no clue about and choose to ignore in their zest for rapid global expansion. 🙄 Oh, the twenty something millionaires and their billionaire dreams…
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Buying milk afresh and systematically preparing and enjoying copious cups of aromatic filter coffee or adharat chai, first thing in the morning (and many times a day, afterwards 😜), is a very unique Indian thing – practically a habit ingrained in the Indian psyche. From the long gone days of zero-carbon-footprint milkman who brought it in aluminium (oh yeah, it’s pronounced with an ‘i’ you ithings-obsessed forbidden fruit man’i’acs) cans and delivered it at every customer home to the reusable glass bottle days to the abominable single-use plastic sachet days of now (take that you – still – plastic-packet-delivering quasi-government entity that’s yet another commercial wing of the plastic-ban-implementation-attempting government), getting fresh (hopefully, who is going to check with the cows!) milk everyday is a must-do activity in many a middle class household, upper or otherwise.

Even today, in established residential localities, one can see uncles and grandpas buying milk sachets from the same vendor (for a few decades, at the minimum – despite the persistent ‘absolutely no customer service whatsoever’ motto of quite a few Aavin vendors, aka that quasi-government entity), during their morning walks. Who gives a damn about the walk – other than the family doc – it’s the current affairs chat with age-old pals and the fresh milk that’s important 😂.

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While this walking/talking/milk buying ritual is happening outside, there’ll be another ritual happening inside the houses to which the fresh milk is headed, in parallel (or is it simultaneously). With the ubiquitous M.S. Suprabhatham bgm (thou may upgrade the device that emits that enchanting evergreen voice to a smartphone+bluetooth speaker combo, but thou shalt not replace the song/chant, ever), lamp(s) get lit in the puja room, with a dash of fragrant smoke from agarbatti and/or sambrani, and the coffee maker starts the warm-up routine to delight the household souls, as unfailingly as the sun that rises to warm and light up the world.

The filter may be a generation or two old brass (பித்தளை) or eversilver (chrome) one or one of those electric coffee makers made by Preethi, Prestige, Philips and the like. The he elders disapprove of this modern thingamagig of course, but have grudgingly allowed it to take over the beloved kaapi filter’s place, in many households. But the coffee brand and the blend is so sacrosanct (Cothas in Swamily, at present – post the strong recommendation from Swamy’s Chithappa, who himself is a long term coffee connoisseur) to each family that even attempting to change it is tantamount to treason.

During his childhood, Swamy remembers visiting the friendly neighbourhood coffee (powder) maker ‘LR Swamy Coffee’ in SS Colony, Madurai, whenever the routine purchase of freshly ground coffee-chicory blend was done by some senior family member. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that a significant part of that entire street was always filled with the bewitching aroma of coffee, all day long. In fact, there was even a hand-operated mini-grinder at Swamy’s grandparents’ home (where his primary education years were spent), which was used to make freshly ground coffee powder at home. While many families in that neighborhood may’ve eventually moved on, it won’t be a surprise if LR Swamy Coffee is still around, grinding aromatic coffee afresh, for a handful of diehard nostalgic customer fans.

As soon as the milk arrives, it gets boiled with froth in a few quick minutes (when the walker impatiently scans the headlines of newspapers – full reading cannot proceed just yet) and a small cupful of milk is offered first to the family deity in the puja room. Next, the aromatic coffee decoction (which, in the western world, is called coffee, btw, heh.. heh..) gets mixed with the right proportion of milk, in multiple tumblers seated inside dabaras. Depending on each coffee connoisseur’s insulin generation capacity & capability, either excess or the right or less or no amount of sugar is added to each tumbler. Then the back and forth pouring between the tumbler and dabara happens a few times, before the piping hot first cup of frothy coffee of the day gets delivered to its connoisseur, who starts relishing it sip by sip. And thus, yet another day dawns in the (typically South, but mostly some parts of Tamilnadu and Karnataka) Indian household. A similar ritual happens in the chai consuming households, obviously.

Oh, for the uninitiated (in what’s collectively known as South Indian culture, which is obviously a misnomer, for the four South Indian states are as different as Madras Filter Kaapi and Kerala Kattanchai), traditional coffee preparation is on/near the very top of the must-learn things list of a new bride, who is keen on blending in with her new family (you are denied the opportunity to accuse Swamy of misogyny for he is the one who typically performs this morning ritual @ SwamyHome 😂). The manni / maatruppen (daughter-in-law) who masters the magical art of making the perfect family coffee is pretty much guaranteed to become the new superstar of a typical tradition-bound South Indian family, overnight, err… overday!

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Now that an app is available for home delivery of fresh packaged milk, daily, the uncles and thathas can have their daily morning cuppa, without having to venture out of the comfort of their abode – if they choose to, that is. To entice many of them, the SUPR app not only assures to deliver fresh milk (as fresh as processed milk can be, of course) daily but also throw in a few sachets of free milk. While Swamy can’t endorse the app without actually trying it (now you know for a fact why none of the SwamyView reviews can be fake), be assured that he is one of those South Indian coffee connoisseurs, for whom the daily morning fresh – and strong, and hot – cuppa is as important as the daily Kriya.

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P.S. The multitude of ‘Kumbakonam Degree Coffee’ food stalls that dot the GST (that would be ‘Grand Southern Trunk,’ not that notoriously popular all-encompassing tax) road aka NH47, at least until Vizhuppuram, that serve coffee in brass dabara-tumbler are mostly nondescript tea stalls that learnt to milk the decoction coffee nostalgia (pun very intended) of travellers,quite successfully. While some of them are quite good, others should just stick to selling chai and Bru coffee, instead of insulting genuine filter kaapi lovers.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

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